A Washington state man says he is the unnamed person referenced in the seditious conspiracy case the federal government is pursuing against members of the Proud Boys for their actions at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Robert Fussell, of Seattle, revealed his identity and role because, he said, evidence cited by federal prosecutors is being mischaracterized. Should the entire private chat logs of the senior Proud Boys planning council be publicized, it would undermine the government’s case, he said.
Fussell, who uses the pseudonym Rex Fergus, is referenced in an indictment as one of three members of “upper-tier leadership” of the Proud Boys’ “Ministry of Self-Defense,” which allegedly planned the group’s actions on Jan. 6. He is not named in the indictment, as he has not been charged with any crime.
The other two leaders of the “operations council” are Zach Rehl, of Philadelphia, who is charged with seditious conspiracy, and another unnamed senior member referred to as ”Person 3,” whom LNP | LancasterOnline identified in March as John Charles Stewart, of Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
The Ministry of Self-Defense chats play a key role in the government’s case against the Proud Boys, receiving more than a dozen mentions in the indictment. Prosecutors have highlighted one message in the chat in particular, where a Proud Boys leader allegedly said they want to “storm the Capitol.” But Fussell disputes the characterization of the chat the Department of Justice is relying on.
Fussell revealed his role to reporters from LNP | LancasterOnline and The Seattle Times in two interviews last week. Leaked Proud Boys chats on the social media app Telegram, which have been independently authenticated for this story, confirm Fussell’s role.
“All of these federal agencies have copies of Mossad chat, everything that was said,” said Fussell, who says he was not at the Jan. 6 rally because his flight was canceled. (Internally, the Proud Boys refer to the Ministry of Self-Defense with the abbreviation MOSD, pronounced “Mossad,” which is also the name of the Israeli intelligence agency.)
“Even just having these chats is not enough — they know it and we know it — to prosecute us. There’s nothing in the chats that says anything about going into the Capitol on Jan. 6.”
Fussell said that MOSD was set up as a way to protect members at national rallies after a series of violent incidents, including the stabbing of North Carolina Proud Boy Jeremy Bertino in December 2020.
The Mossad chats are being viewed as a “smoking gun” by the Department of Justice, Fussell said, maintaining that the context of the full chats — which the department has — prove there was no prior intent to storm the Capitol.
One of the three Proud Boys chats at the heart of the Department of Justice’s case was posted online Sunday by a Florida Proud Boy, Gabriel Garcia, who also faces charges for his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. LNP | LancasterOnline confirmed their authenticity with Aaron Wolkind, a Philadelphia Proud Boy who was included in the chats and is referenced in the indictment as an unindicted co-conspirator.
Unredacted transcripts of the chat — where prospective MOSD members were introduced — confirm Fussell’s role, as well as Stewart’s, but do not contain some of the most pertinent statements to the Department of Justice’s seditious conspiracy case.
For example, in the still-unreleased third chat among leaders of the group, investigators point to an exchange between Stewart and former Proud Boys President Enrique Tarrio as evidence of the group’s prior intent to violently disrupt Congress’ certification of Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential win.
In a Jan. 3, 2021, message, Stewart recommended that Proud Boys focus their efforts on the U.S. House of Representatives, where Congress would be meeting in joint session to certify the election results.
Tarrio responded to the message with, “You want to storm the Capitol.”
“When you look at the context of the conversation that’s being had, it was basically like, ‘You moron — we’re not going into the Capitol,’ ” Fussell said.
Fussell said the response to Tarrio’s message from others in the group indicated they knew Tarrio was not serious, though Fussell declined to provide the full chat logs and said in a text message to The Seattle Times that he had “decided to hold on to the information that I have until the time comes that I can best help the J6 guys’ cases in court.”
Samantha Kutner, an extremism researcher focused on the Proud Boys whose work has been published by the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, said that in studying the group, she has found that even if one individual Proud Boy is not violent, the group as a whole is.
She said the group’s tactics often involve provoking others into confrontation and then releasing video of themselves appearing as victims, as well as inducing non-Proud Boys to take action, or “rile up the normies.”
Fussell and Wolkind, though, said that there was no coordinated plan and that prosecutors are attempting to win in the court of public opinion.
“I think a lot of it was guys caught up in the moment,” Fussell said. “I believe if Enrique Tarrio had been standing in front of those steps with all those Proud Boys, he would not have let them go in.”
The U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack has scheduled its next public hearing for 7 a.m. PDT on Tuesday. The hearing is expected to explore the role the Proud Boys and other groups played that day, as well as any advance knowledge the Trump White House may have had of their plans.
Seattle Times reporters Hal Bernton and Jim Brunner contributed to this story.